Offcuts: Garden Shed By: Don Heisz

When I bought this house, it came with two sheds in the back yard. One is a fairly large structure with a shed-type roof. It is actually a fairly useful space, although I don’t get much use out of it since it’s currently filled with junk generated by my endless renovation of the house. But someday it can be cleared out and used for something or other.
The other shed is baby-barn style, assembled from a kit by the previous owners of the house. I know it was from a kit because the instructions were still inside when I got it. It’s OSB on prefab, barn-profile trusses. The assembly should have been fairly straight-forward. And they did it correctly, for the most part. The finishing details made them stumble, as so many are fine with the general rough work but don’t quite get the details right.

I never paid much attention to the shed until one day I went to get something (the lawnmower, I believe) and the active door was stuck. The doors were OSB that extended a few inches below the 2×3 frames to which they were nailed. I couldn’t see what was holding the door closed so I gave it a good yank and was surprised when it not only opened but fell on the ground.
Once I stopped laughing, I got what I needed from the shed.

The hinges had been screwed to 1×4 trim pieces that were themselves screwed onto the door. This sounds ok and would have been ok if the OSB had been screwed to the trim pieces – as in through the OSB and into the trim – but it was the other way around. The 1/4″ thick trim was screwed to the OSB by a few 1 1/4″ screws. Roughly 1/4″ inch of screw threading was into the OSB. So the door had actually just fallen off the 1×4 trim, which remained attached to the hinges.
I left the door there for a few days. The ground was muddy in front of the shed so the door made a good bridge. Unfortunately, the wind pulled the other door off and it too, ended up on the ground.
I eventually decided to put the doors back on. There were a number of problems caused by the initial assembly of the shed but I got them working to my satisfaction and thought no more of it.
A year or so later, the doors were once more hard to open. The active door was rubbing on the threshold and the inactive door was rubbing on the head of the frame.
I could see that the shed was sinking into the mud.
Furthermore, I could see that the OSB had started acting like a piece of toast dipped in soup. The shed had settled onto the ground and the sheathing was sucking up water. One side of the shed went very bad very quickly. Within a year, I could poke my finger through the OSB anywhere on that side. In fact, it started to fall off in big pieces.
Why didn’t I fix it? I could say I was busy but I wasn’t. I was thinking what I needed to fix that was a dumpster and a few minutes with a wrecking bar. So, I let it rot until one side of the shed was practically gone.

garden shed levered out of the mud to pour new concrete to set deck blocks

But one spring morning while out raking the dead grass, I thought better. I thought, why should I just let this rot away and become something I need to dispose of instead of fixing it and getting another 10 or 15 years use out of it? The fact is, the shed was probably only two or three years old when I got it.
They had originally supported the shed on deck blocks. That must’ve been satisfactory at the time but unfortunately, deck blocks set on topsoil end up sinking out of sight within a few years. The deck block for one back corner, however, was sitting on a concrete pad that must have been the floor of a previous smaller shed (likely a metal one). That corner did not sink. That caused the shed to rack and made the doors to misalign in their frame.

garden shed with replaced wood side and set on deck blocks

That fixed the problem of it being in the mud. I then had to replace the missing side. 3/8 plywood did the trick.

I got a 4×4 and a concrete block and levered the front of the shed out of the mud. I dug out the sunken deck blocks and deepened the holes they had made. I then mixed up some concrete and poured it in. The next day, I put the deck blocks back and set the front of the shed on them. That made the front of the shed about 3 inches higher than the back, so I lifted the back of the shed and put a couple of patio stones under the deck block that was on the concrete pad. I could then dig out the last deck block, since the shed was no longer on it, and pour concrete there, also.

What’s the moral of this story? Perhaps it is that you shouldn’t let something that can be fixed sink into the ground as it rots away. Or maybe it’s that people should see if what they’re doing is correct before they do something wrong. Or maybe there’s no moral. The fact is, no matter how well or poorly built something is, it will eventually fall apart. Everything needs to be maintained.
The shed is currently the home of my wheelbarrow, my lawnmower, a set of tires, and probably a few families of mice.